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4 posts from November 2016


Internships in Sustainability and the Environment: "Broadcasting Sustainability," Alejandra Pedraza

      From September 26 through October 21, 2016, I interned with Monteverde.FM. Monteverde.FM is an open-source, alternative, multimedia production project for the Monteverde area. Their mission is to inform, educate, entertain, and unite the unique bilingual community of Monteverde in order to promote sustainable local development and shared knowledge. The focus of my internship was to plan, design, and conduct interviews, with the end goal of producing three podcasts to be aired as part of Monteverde.FM’s Sustainability Studio. The podcasts produced had the overarching theme of tourism and each delved a little deeper into the impacts tourism has had in terms of sustainability in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

      I interned with Monteverde.FM because I am passionate about both education and sustainability and this internship offered me the opportunity to share information in a meaningful and concise way. I was specifically interested in learning better techniques to communicate a topic that is important to me, but not widely understood: sustainability.    Additionally, I felt this internship offered me valuable experience that will prove extremely useful as I take the next step in my professional career. In a matter of months, I will be joining Peace Corps Guyana as a Community Conservation Promoter. As a volunteer, I will work in remote indigenous communities to promote awareness and appreciation of the natural world and support community-based conservation efforts. Effective communication tactics will be crucial in order to carry out my job efficiently.

      My internship was comprised of multiple stages, that were both challenging and educational. The first stage was interview preparation. During this stage, I learned how to develop clear and skillful questions that would eventually serve as the backbone for our podcasts. The next stage was interviewing. During the interviewing stage, I learned to use recording equipment. Additionally, I learned how to carry-out an interview and steer it in the desired direction.

FullSizeRenderConducting an interview at a local art shop

The last phase was production. During this phase I learned how to use editing software, Audacity, to create and edit each of our podcasts. Although it was a tedious job, I learned the importance of being organized and detail-oriented. In addition to the skills I learned, I also learned about tourism and the social, economic, and environmental impacts it can have on a small, rural community like Monteverde.

IMG_1853Spending some quality time with the recording equipment

      My greatest accomplishment throughout my internship was educating people on a topic that holds great significance for Monteverde and its future. The road from Guacimal to Monteverde will be paved in the next couple years and the people have to know what that entails. Although it will make travel easier for locals, it will cause an increase in tourism. The economic benefit of this is obvious, but the social and environmental challenges cannot go unnoticed. As people become more informed on this topic, they will have greater influence over the future of Monteverde. One way or another, Monteverde has to be ready for the drastic changes an increase in tourism will have on it. How these changes are addressed will define the future of Monteverde.


Internships in Sustainability and the Environment: "Integrating Environmental and Financial Sustainability on a Climate-Smart Tropical Farm," Scott Vondy


During my time as an intern at Finca Samanea, I not only explored an issue of sustainability, but earned a deeper understanding of the history, values, and dreams of the people in the Monteverde region. My assignment was to develop a pasture-raised egg production system that would adhere to the tenets of “Climate-Smart Agriculture”. To be successful at this task, I thought of the old adage, “Farm by looking at the land and not by reading an instruction manual”. For me to come enter the farm with preconceived notions of how a chicken operation should run would be socio-centric and would not result in a successful project. Instead, with the help of my internship advisors Fabricio Camacho and Karen Gordon, we engaged in a cross-cultural exchange of ideas by interviewing local farmers as well as the regional authority on the matter, the Ministry of Agriculture.


IMG_20160930_091216Farming by looking at the land

            This project naturally fit my educational interests involving agro-ecological issues. Finca Samanea’s location in a biological corridor makes the integrity of the land a priority for the overall ecosystem. However, conservation for conservation’s sake does not always support the social and economic legs of the sustainability stool. If we are to be successful in easing the tensions between agriculture and nature, we must study and understand the attitudes of the public and the public’s connection with the environment. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to work toward developing a system of agriculture that emphasizes harmony with nature rather than domination over it. Throughout this experience, I have learned methods of land management and development techniques, how to develop plan specificities to meet the wishes of a small family farm, and new interview techniques.

            The products of my internship will provide the family with a working plan to feed and house 40 chickens in an organic, pastured system. It may also serve as a model for other local farmers who have asked me to share my results with them. I am extremely thankful for CIEE-SE providing this opportunity as well as to Fabrisico and Karen for being kind enough to invite a student to their beautiful farm and to include them in their personal decision making process for the direction of their farm.

  Vondy Chicken CoupCoop design


Internships in Sustainability and the Environment: "Bosque Eterno De Los Niños," Rosie Briggs

This October, I worked as an intern for the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, which is managed by the Monteverde Conservation League. This nonprofit organization works to “conserve, preserve, and rehabilitate tropical ecosystems and their biodiversity”, largely through their maintenance of the largest private reserve in the country (the Children’s Eternal Rainforest). This was a marketing internship, so all my efforts essentially went toward increasing the public awareness of the reserve. The BEN (the abbreviation for the Spanish name, el Bosque Eterno de los Niños) is a private reserve, which means that it depends heavily on public visitation to fund its conservation efforts.

To try to boost the public awareness (and the income, as a result) of this outstanding reserve, I produced several outreach-based projects. I first researched the BEN in every way I could. I read books, interviewed members of the MCL, watched a documentary, and gathered all the existing outreach material. Then I put together a script for the tour guides to use so that one cohesive, comprehensive story can be told (I also translated the script into Spanish). I put together a supplementary document with extra information for the guides to study so that they can choose to share extra facts or stories and answer questions easily. Lastly, I wrote the script and chose the photos for a new video to be played in the visitors’ center or be shared elsewhere.

Internship2Writing scripts for guide videos can be fun

I was personally very interested and invested in this particular internship because it encompassed so many of my passions and supported something I really care about. In the past month I got to learn about photography in the rainforest, interview a founder of the MCL, hike to the Continental Divide, and receive a lesson on being a naturalist guide during a night tour. All of these activities were a dream come true for me, as was writing all the material. I gained a lot of valuable experience in photography and video editing, which are two totally new skills for me. This was also my first time formally translating through writing, which is definitely a skill I’d like to develop and integrate into future jobs. I already had a fair amount of experience with environmental writing, but this internship has definitely sharpened my skills in that area and showed me that I still have a lot to learn!

I think the BEN has an amazing story to tell and people would love to visit and support it if they knew it was there. I think my biggest contribution to the organization has been my organization and consolidation of all the information, which hadn’t really previously been done but was very necessary for current and future outreach efforts. My greatest personal accomplishment was probably the translations, because it was a big first step for me as a bilingual person. Although this internship was short, I feel like I am leaving a tangible legacy behind and taking many new skills with me as I move forward!



Internships in Sustainability and the Environment: "Sustainable Landscaping," Sydney Hall

The idea behind my internship is sustainable landscaping. I saw this internship as an opportunity to improve something within the community as well as be as environmentally and economically sustainable as possible. I wanted to use as many natural materials as possible to minimize the environmental impact of the project. I also used as many resources that we already had at the study center as I could to avoid purchasing additional materials. I chose the location I did because I saw the chance to fix the need for a safe meeting space and seating area along the transect of road from Monteverde to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. I wanted to create a space that is more usable by the public and that is more aesthetically pleasing to people walking and driving past. I also constructed a hand rail to create added security to people crossing the existing “bridge” over the drainage ditch. During the time Ella and I were working in this area, we saw several large groups of small children crossing the ditch as well as nearly falling in ourselves. Eventually a new footbridge over the river will be constructed so I tried to leave enough room for vehicles when they begin construction and leave a path to show where the future trail ought to go.

Sydney 2

The new sustainable seating area

A big part of this project, for me, was being able to better something in the community while being as sustainable as possible. I removed the invasive grass by hand which was really difficult work but I did not want to coat the area with Roundup as the municipality usually does to clear plants. This common practice has many negative environmental effects which I wanted to avoid. I replanted the areas with native plants from ProNativas which will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The new plants serve a purpose; they aren’t just pretty flower planted because they’re pretty.

Through this internship, I learned a lot about the specific plant species native to the Monteverde area and how to use them with intention in a garden where they serve a purpose besides decoration. I experienced the aggressiveness of certain nonnative plants when I removed invasive grass from the project location. Before this project, I was not aware of how much planning goes into projects like this besides just the physical work. Even my little roadside improvement took two weeks of planning. In the planning process I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the community dynamic and relationship with the environment in Monteverde.

I think my greatest contribution to the community is the handrail constructed of tree branches because it greatly increases the safety of the trail crossing the drainage ditch as well as highlight the trail entrance so more people will be inclined to use it instead of walk in the road. It is something that is very usable by everyone in the community as well as aesthetically pleasing.

Sydney 1

The new handrails on the footbridge